Where’s Ashlee Williams today?
In a normal office setting, such a question might mean an employee is late to work or absent altogether. But in reference to BDI’s Senior Creative Content Specialist, it speaks to one of her most endearing traits: her sense of adventure.
Last month, Ashlee and her husband, Kenny, bought an RV, sold all their furniture, moved out of their Denver apartment and began traveling the country – while she continued to work remotely for BDI. Right now, Ashlee might be logging in from the desert in Joshua Tree… next month, Arizona… and during the summer, somewhere up north.
“We’re heading west and then going south for the winter,” Ashlee explains, “basically just chasing the good weather. Then maybe end up on the East Coast in the spring and then on to Montana and Idaho and maybe even Canada.”
Their journey also includes a lot to look forward to along the way – the homes of family and friends, national parks and historic sites, and just downtime to take in the beauty of nature.
“We really enjoy the outdoors,” says Ashlee, whose pastimes include hiking, rock climbing and cycling.
In fact, she’s traveled cross country before… on a bicycle!
In 2016, while still living in California, BDI granted her a two-month leave of absence and sponsored her participation in Ride For Water. This annual event for charity: water funds the nonprofit’s mission of bringing clean and safe drinking water to people around the world.
“The ride started in Florence, Oregon, and ended in New York,” Ashlee says. “It was about 3,100 miles and took about 50 days.” Together, her team of five cyclists and two support personnel raised nearly $75,000. “It was pretty life-changing – it was an awesome summer!”
A different kind of journey
Yet perhaps her most moving and meaningful journey is the one she embarked on in 2017 when her mother was diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease… at only 54.
“My parents lived in Colorado at the time and I had this pull to come back and spend time with her,” Ashlee says. “But I didn’t want to leave BDI – I loved my job – and they really worked with me to figure it out.”
BDI allowed Ashlee to become a remote contractor, and she and Kenny moved to Colorado. Together with her father, they navigated a network of resources, training and professional support that enabled them to meet her mother’s needs and provide care for over five years as her disease progressed. Ashlee is grateful they were able to keep her mother at home in her final months, until her passing in January 2023.
“A lot happened within those years – a lot of changes and adjustments. The disease progression is very difficult to watch. But I’m so glad I had the honor to care for her and have memories of that time with her.”
A common thread
If you sense a common thread in Ashlee’s journeys, you’re right. “BDI has been a big part of my life for a long time,” she says, grateful for the support and flexibility that have allowed her to fulfill her passions and responsibilities. “I love that BDI puts people first. I’m really lucky that it’s all I’ve ever known!”
You see, BDI has been her longest employer! In 2014, while studying English at Azusa Pacific University, she took a temporary job with BDI as a proofreader. She was hired full-time after graduation and has grown with the company to her current position as Senior Creative Content Specialist for the Custom client team, ensuring the accuracy and quality of a project’s content from start to finish.
“I’m in a unique position where I have to know the entire journey of a job from the get-go,” she says. “The idea of the job we’re creating. Proofreading it at every stage. Making sure client changes are made and final proofs are good to go. There are just so many pieces to the puzzle!”
Most important, she feels her journey with BDI has brought her full circle, and it keeps her mother’s memory alive.
“She was really good at editing and writing,” Ashlee says. “I have memories of her sitting down with me and having me find a typo in a magazine or the mail. Today I use the same skills I learned from her and apply them in a way that’s really fulfilling.”
Guiding principles gleaned from experience
While one’s philosophy often drives his or her life journey, for Ashlee it’s been the other way around. Her experience has made her aware of roads others may be traveling and instilled in her a pledge to always being kind.
“I think you can get very far in life by remembering that everyone – everyone – has their own journeys and challenges. So just having a baseline of kindness can really make the world a better place.”
Her journeys have also enkindled a complementary commitment: grow as you go.
“We’re all going through life and it’s coming at us with whatever challenges it might have. But if you come out on the other side stronger and more resilient, then you’re doing it right.”
So where is Ashlee now?
At last check, she was completing her last project of the day in the peace of the Arizona desert, beneath a dramatic sunset.
But regardless of her location, she’s never far from our hearts, and she continues to inspire us with her kindness… her adventurous spirit… and her journeys of miles and memories.
Fun facts about Ashlee!
- Not that Ashlee would ever forget the two principles she’s come to live by. But if she did, she has tattoos that serve as visual reminders!
- When Ashlee was 11 or 12, she competed in “speed cup stacking” championships. (Google it – you’ll be amazed!)
- Reminiscent of the 60s and 70s – before she was even born – Ashlee creates macrame wall hangings, plant hangers and other items and donates proceeds from the sales to Alzheimer’s research. Along with her dad and husband, she continues to participate in events to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association, such as the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s.